As luck would have it, some of the best inventions that are part of our lives actually happened by accident. Who could possibly imagine going through a day without Kool-Aid, penicillin, microwave ovens, ice cream cones, Post it notes, potato chips, Super Glue, Slinkies or heaven forbid… no Popsicles?
The Cold Start of a Legend
The Popsicle was “invented” in 1905 by an industrious 11-year-old boy named Frank Epperson during an unseasonably cold San Francisco evening. After accidentally leaving his fruit drink in a cup on the front porch overnight, he discovered that the juice had frozen around the wooden stir stick. The next morning, he pulled the frozen drink out of the cup by the stick and voila… the first Popsicle was discovered!
Epperson’s invention took the neighborhood by storm as the “Eppsicle,” but it wasn’t until 1923 while running a lemonade stand at the Neptune Beach amusement park in Oakland, California that he realized the money making potential of his discovery. His children grew to love the cool treat, begging him for one of “Pop’s ‘sicles,” so in 1924, Epperson applied for the first patent of the “Popsicle” – the first “drink on a stick.”
The Popsicle Goes Big Time
In 1925, Epperson sold the patent and the rights to the brand name “Popsicle” to the Joe Lowe Company in New York. As it turned out, he made a wise business decision –royalties from the Popsicles totaled more than $60 million for the first three years. Popsicles began to appear all over the world where they were affectionately known as “Ice-lollies” in Great Britain and “Icy Poles” in Australia.
Popsicles continued to grow in popularity with kids and adults, alike. As soldiers returned home from World War II to begin building families, the average breadwinner could now afford the conveniences of their own refrigerators and freezers. That meant that busy homemakers could buy large quantities of Popsicles in “multipacks” and store them indefinitely in the freezer, dispensing them to the kids whenever they deserved a treat or needed a bribe. In 1940, Woody Gelman created the “Popsicle Pete” mascot to help market Popsicles in magazines, comic books and television commercials. Eventually, cardboard advertisements were distributed to vendors that touted the new marketing slogan, “If it’s Popsicle, it’s possible.”
Popsicles continued to sell well for the next 15 years until they became part of the Consolidated Foods Corporation line-up. They were expanded into 35 different flavors, not including the Fudgesicle and other “natural fruit flavor” spin-offs of the original frozen treat. Several years later, “Creamsicles” (an ice pop with a vanilla ice cream center surrounding a stick) were sold in three flavors: orange, blue raspberry and raspberry. The new pop became so popular that “American National Creamsicle Day” is now celebrated every August 14th.
The Popsicle continued to make the corporate rounds when the Gold Bond Ice Cream Company purchased the U.S. operations of Popsicle Industries, then was purchased three years later by Unilever. In 1993, the Popsicle underwent another change when the Unilever company name was changed to the Good Humor-Breyers Ice Cream Company, where it remains today.
Not many deserts can claim second lives even after they’ve been consumed. But, long after your kids have swallowed the last bite, Popsicles continue to live on in the form of elaborate projects like bridges and houses made from Popsicle sticks. The “stick bomb” was one of the first creations made from used Popsicle sticks. After weaving 5 sticks together in a specific pattern, the stick bomb is thrown to the floor, where it “explodes” with a loud “pop”.
Written for and excerpted from Armchair Reader The Gigantic Reader – West Side Publishing (September 7, 2009)